Cornwall + Gothic = scintillating reading!
There has been a long tradition of Gothic novels set in Cornwall. The southern-most county of England has more miles of rocky coastline, windswept cliffs, mysterious manor houses, and menaced heroines than any other location in literary history.
Author Daphne du Maurier (1907–1989) is a major contributor to this genre with Jamaica Inn (1936), Rebecca (1938), and My Cousin Rachel (1951), adding greatly to the mysterious reputation emanating from Cornwall. Susan Howatch’s Penmarric, and Victoria Holt’s Bride of Pendorric, are also fabulous dark romances that send chills.
Today, I am happy to introduce you to Sarah E. Ladd. She joins an august ensemble of authors to this unique genre of romance with mysterious overtones in The Thief of Lanwyn Manor, her second novel of her Cornwall Books. Here is a description and an exclusive excerpt for your enjoyment.
In Regency England, an advantageous match could set up a lady for life. Julia knows Matthew Blake, copper mine owner, and very eligible bachelor is the gentleman she should set her eyes upon. But why can’t she steal her gaze away from his younger brother, Isaac?
Cornwall, England, 1818
Julia Twethewey needs a diversion to mend her broken heart, so when her cousin invites her to Lanwyn Manor, Julia eagerly accepts. The manor is located at the heart of Cornwall’s mining industry, and as a guest, Julia is swept into its intricate world. It’s not long, though, before she realizes something dark lurks within the home’s ancient halls.
As a respected mine owner’s younger son, Isaac Blake is determined to keep his late father’s legacy alive through the family business, despite his brother’s careless attitude. In order to save their livelihood—and that of the people around them—the brothers approach the master of Lanwyn Manor with plans to bolster the floundering local industry. Isaac can’t deny his attraction to the man’s charming niece, but his brother has made clear his intentions to court the lovely visitor. And Isaac knows his place.
When tragedy strikes, mysteries arise, and valuables go missing, Julia and Isaac find they are pulled together in a swirl of strange circumstances, but despite their best efforts to bow to social expectations, their hearts aren’t so keen to surrender.
Lively conversation echoed and laughter abounded as Isaac remained with the male guests in the dining room. The ladies, led by Mrs. Lambourne, had retreated to Lanwyn Manor’s drawing-room, leaving the men to drink their port and discuss mining business. Smoke puffed from clay pipes and cheroots mixed with that from the hearth’s fire. To an outsider, the assembly might appear nothing more than a comfortable gathering of friends with nary a care in the world.
The pretense of camaraderie made Isaac uncomfortable.
He cherished his genuine friends, such as Charlie and Margaret, and pretending to be otherwise was difficult. Regardless, it was important to play the role he’d inherited— a miner who needed to manage the interest of his own undertakings.
Isaac moved to stand next to the window and stared into the rain-smeared black night. As he listened to the men’s chattering of hunting and pistols, his frustration grew. Gathered here were the best minds in mining, and not a single soul had the courage to bring up last night’s events. Instead, laughter and gaiety ruled the room, and his brother was at the heart of it. Just as Isaac had made up his mind to be the one to address it, footsteps sounded.
He glanced over his shoulder to see Dunstan approaching, port in hand. “Heard about your experience at the Gray Owl last night.”
“No doubt everyone’s heard about it.”
Dunstan regarded the laughing guests, joking and making merry, behind him. He heaved a sigh and shook his graying head.
“These are precarious times. There’s a great deal at stake. But I don’t have to tell you that.”
“No, sir, you do not.”
“Look at them all.” Dunstan set down his glass on the side table next to the window, retrieved a lacquered snuffbox from his waistcoat, and opened the lid. “All hoping to gain access to ol’ Bal Tressa, but I daresay Lambourne’s playing them all for fools.” He pinched the black powder between his fingers and inhaled before he extended the box to Isaac.
Isaac waved off the gesture and with a shrug, Dunstan returned the box to his pocket. “You’ve heard Lambourne’s been in talks with Marcus Elliot?”
Isaac folded his arms over his chest. “Yes. Apparently, that is why he was absent during his niece’s distress.”
Dunstan gave a dry laugh. “Speaking of Lambourne’s niece, your brother seemed quite enchanted by her charms during dinner.”
Isaac chuckled at the change of topic. “Noticed that, did you?”
“I gather everyone did. Not a bad tactic, I suppose. If I wanted a shot at Bal Tressa and I were twenty years younger and unmarried, wooing the owner’s niece might seem like a valid approach.”
“I’m not sure the Davies family would agree.” Isaac shot a glance over to Mr. Davies, whose scowl during dinner signaled his disapproval of the budding friendship between Matthew and the guest of honor. Isaac had been seated next to the discarded Miss Davies at dinner, and despite his best efforts to be an amiable dinner neighbor, her lack of interest in this Blake brother was evident.
“True.” Dunstan retrieved his port. “But Lambourne is so unaccustomed with the workings of a mine that it just might work.”
“Have you interest in Lambourne’s mine?”
Dunstan drew an exaggerated breath, turned his back toward the window, and assessed the group. A hint of a smile quirked one side of his mouth. “No, I don’t. I’ve set my sights in a different direction.”
“Oh?” Isaac raised his brows. “And what’s that?” Dunstan leaned closer and lowered his raspy voice even further. “I’ve heard chatter that you might consider opening Wheal Gwenna again. About time, says I.”
Isaac jerked, shocked to hear his mine mentioned. “Wheal Gwenna? Where’d you hear that?”
“Charlie Benson. Said he was working with you to gather capital.” “Ah.” Charlie was his good friend and a most loyal comrade, but he often had a hard time keeping his own counsel. “Wheal Gwenna’s closed and will likely stay that way. Even if I did plan to open her, it’d take a great deal of time, not to mention funds. With my work at Wheal Tamsen, I’m not sure how I’d manage.”
Dunstan drew a deep breath and rubbed his hand over his cleanly shaven chin. “Tell me, young Blake, do your plans include Bal Tressa like every other man in the room?”
Isaac shrugged. “Running a mine like Bal Tressa takes a great deal of money. You forget Matthew owns Wheal Tamsen, not me. His financial and business decisions are his. I manage his mine, and nothing more.”
“Yet you profit from it.” Isaac nodded. “Yes, I do.”
“Let me ask you this plainly.” Dunstan shifted his ample weight and squared his broad shoulders. “Are you seeking investors?”
Isaac widened his stance as he considered the question. True, he and Charlie had been talking— dreaming— about opening Wheal Gwenna, but frustration crept into his countenance. Charlie was eager, almost too eager, to secure investors. Wheal Gwenna was still Isaac’s mine, and he’d decide who’d have influence and who would not. But now wasn’t the time. He didn’t have sufficient funds, nor did he want outside investors affecting the mine operations. He wanted to be master of his own.
Then again, every man in the room wanted to be master of his own destiny, and unfortunately, very few were.
“Not at this time, no.”
Dunstan narrowed his eyes. “Have you considered that if other mines were finding success, the hullabaloo about Bal Tressa would cease?”
They stared at each other for several moments, the truth of the statement hanging heavily between them.
“I, for one, would be eager for such a venture, especially if I were young and unattached. You’ve much to gain,” Dunstan said.
After a pause, Isaac finished his sentence for him. “And not much to lose.” Chapter 11, pages 79 – 82
- “Northanger Abbey meets Poldark against the resplendent and beautifully realized landscape of Cornwall.” — Rachel McMillan, author of The London Restoration
- “Cornwall’s iconic sea cliffs are on display in The Thief of Lanwyn Manor, but it’s the lyrical prose, rich historical detail, and layered characters that truly shine…this is Sarah E. Ladd at her best!” — Kristy Cambron, bestselling author of the Lost Castle series
- “Ladd laces the drama with deep faith elements and fine details of the Regency era, which provide depth beyond the tension of the romance. Fans of Julie Klassen will love this.” — Publisher’s Weekly
Sarah E. Ladd received the 2011 Genesis Award in historical romance for The Heiress of Winterwood. She is a graduate of Ball State University and has more than ten years of marketing experience. Sarah lives in Indiana with her amazing family and spunky golden retriever. Visit her online at SarahLadd.com; Facebook: SarahLaddAuthor; Twitter: @SarahLaddAuthor.
The Thief of Lanwyn Manor (The Cornwall Novels Book 2), by Sarah E. Ladd
Thomas Nelson (2020)
Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (352) pages
Cover image, book description, excerpt, & author bio courtesy of Thomas Nelson © 2020; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2020, Austenprose.com